June 26th There’s NO place Like HOME!!!

 I Arrived in Chicago at 430pm and have spoken Chinese and looked for my chopsticks on many occasion. IMG_2399IMG_2385

No matter where you go, there you are, and here I am back at home in the USA. Happy and proud to be an American with all my freedoms and rights. (I can Google again) When I travel, I am both humbled and grateful for all that I have. My world is one of privilege, and I will never take this for granted.

Thanks to all of you who have made me who I am.

I love you and I appreciate you.

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June 25th Last Day in Shanghai and Back to Boston

I will miss China and all its beauty, tasty food and its humble, courteous, hard working and generous people. The energy and commitment to advancing is palpable. Education and English are valued, and the ancient traditions are being revised. We have much to teach and much to learn from this most beautiful and historic culture and country. I have gotten back 10 fold for all that I have given. My bag has tripled in size and I am still being given gifts as I enter the airport.

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Wed June 24th Teaching and Touring in Shanghai

We sleep in till 8am, after arriving back at 1am to Shanghai. Kathy and I are taxing and touring on our own and head to the famous Nanjing Road, lined with designer shops one block off of a local alley of traditional shops. I prefer the latter and appreciate the contrast in Chinas past and present.

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We are picked up by my friend Tumai’s driver, a must for westerners living in China, as is an “Aunty” to care for your children and cook meals. I am impressed with the amazing western FM care given at United Health, (but they accept full pay or insurance only) We connect Kathy’s family to FM providers and all exchange business cards the 2 handed traditional method. Lunch with Dr. Sarai and Jesse a fellow who trained at XMU, both are excited to partner with me and XMU faculty on a submission to STFM next Spring. We plan to present the background and strategies for overcoming burnout and sustaining a FM workforce in the US and China.

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Kathy, her mother and I continue our touring at the Famous Yu Yuan Gardens and market where the deals are obtainable only if you haggle very well and I do!!! 50% reduction is easily obtained, which means I could have gone further, but it seems unnecessary, as the Yuan is only 1/6th of the dollar. We meet up with Kathy’s father, twin brothers and two aunties on the popular BUND and walk the strip once again admiring the stark contrast between the old and the new Shanghai. It make times square looks tiny. This is the largest shipping port in the world, with 250 million living in Shanghai alone and 1.3 billion in China. We have a traditional, yet fast food version of Chinese food. I haven’t ordered for myself the whole trip as meals are family style and always include a surprise; tonight’s is fish skin.  A quick trip through the “tourist tunnel” a mini cable car version of Willy Wonka’s psychadellic train under the Huang Pu river. The boys are sleeping and head home. Kathy and I head to the top of Bund 15 tower to meet Tumai and her husband, a physician for Bristol Meyer, who are moving back to Boston tomorrow after 4 years I Shanghai. We barely squeak in on the night clubs dress code as high heels are a must and I am still having guilt over Kathy’s mojito not being a virgin, as ordered. A late night as I pack my bags to fly home. One last tracking of everyone’s time and activities, Stephi is 4 ahead and surely sleeping, Marc is opposite at noon and likely having lunch and Tori is 6 behind and probably ready for supper.

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Tuesday June 23rd The Real China – Rice Planting Season in Lishui

I rise early and walk the market amazed to be talking to Bubba (12 hours difference). I am mentally tracking everyone’s time constantly (Tori is 6 hours earlier still sleeping in Italy and Stephi is 4 hours later, settling in and now working daily in NZ) I Sample meat dumplings on the rotating rooftop buffet , and keep a supply of water and fresh fruit in the car as we travel (bananas, leechee, plums, pears, peaches, and dragon fruit). We spend the morning at an ancient market on the river outside of Lushui,

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I am a rare but smiled upon foreigner in these parts, my reception ranges from stares, to giggles, to frequent requests for photos. Kathy’s grandmother calls on her cell phone to tell us she has lunch prepared and we arrive at her village farm to find her uncle preparing to plant the recently pulled rice seedlings for the season. I offer to help, and he gladly accepts my company. Meals are slow and purposeful in China and the conversation is plentiful with mindfulness on each bite. Kathy serves as translator for everyone stories ranging from KUA graduation to the Cultural Revolution.

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A once in a lifetime experience, as I step barefoot (despite the threat of leeches) into the rice paddy to precisely place a batch of seedlings in straight lines (as guided by her uncle) This will grow to be 2 feet tall and be harvest in October to feed the family along with their chickens, fish and vegetables all year. This is the REAL CHINA!!!

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June 22nd Hiking on the Picturesque Mountain tops outside of Lishui.

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I value the watermelon, tea and a sample of vegetables and festival rice cakes at our breakfast buffet with every imaginable food type on the hotel rooftop rotating restaurant. Kathy’s 19 yr old cousin (raised as her brother) who is in college in Lishui joins us (and practices his English) as we drive an hour to their friends wood shop. We are graciously greeted by the family, toured and taken to lunch at a traditional mountain top restaurant, which was recently visited by the current Chairman of the People Republic of China. The family has a 14 yr old daughter, who overcomes her shyness, requests a photo with me and joins us for our afternoon hike. Her mother shares their dreams for her to be of the highest profession – that of a soldier in the army, second best would be a government official. Doctors are way down the line, as they are neither trained well nor respected.

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Another hour drive , the rain clears and the views on the mountains are picture perfect, with waterfalls and cliffs out of tour books. Dinner at another friends hotel (special American food , cakes , French fires , and chicken nuggets) A friend craftsman / teacher opens his ceramic shop after hours to show us his amazing black pottery. Kathy and I get a lesson and create (with a lot of his help ) beautiful vases that he will fire and sent to her. The night ends after midnight with the formalities of exchanging business cards, a gift for me, and photos of all for his business.

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Buonasera 6/22/15

Ciao all! I’m starting to relax a bit more here in Italy, and to not feel like I have to have everything perfect or under control. It’s much nicer to have a group of smart college students around. Pretty much the ideal environment if you ask me. It’s just more relaxing to be with fun people and it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. Anyway, these past few days have been busy busy. Friday we visited three sights: the villa at oplontis, Herculaneum, and mount Vesuvius. The villa at Oplontis knocked my socks off. Check out these frescoes: image They are the bomb. This villa belonged to the family of the late wife of Nero, so big money here. Next on to Herculaneum, another ancient buried city where some of the wood and other organic remains still exist as carbonized charcoal because this city was covered in hot pyroclastic lava flows instead if just piles of hot fluffy ash, so everything hardened. A roman door covering a tablinium: image And a plaque commemorating the dedication of a building to one of the priests of Augustus. image It was a pretty impressive place, and a lot of it is still buried. Next we went to some volcanic heights, visiting the crater of Vesuvius. It’s last eruption was in 1944, and it has erupted something like 10 times since the eruption of 79 ad, but none as monumental. The crater, aka the space left when the magma oozes out and the outer cavity collapsed, is pretty gigantic. image This is looking into the crater: image Next day we went to the national archaeological museum, which holds most of the valuable artifacts from Pompeii as other surrounding sights. I liked this view image Next off to the secret room which is full of erotic imagery. Fecundity is a totem of good luck and prosperity and is said to ward off evil, so phaluses were highly used in art. We saw a lot of pompeiian frescoes and mosaics, which were super elaborate. Tomorrow off to the site, the villa Arianna (google it to see more about it) to do architectural surveying and drawing, of which I know absolutely nothing, but I can apply my classical knowledge to the site anyway. Love you all

June 21st Family Visit in Shanghai and Lishui, Zhejiang Province

Slept till 6am YEAH!!! A quick swim at the Crown Plaza Hotel Suite and off to Kathys home to see the cutest 2 yr old twin baby boys on earth. Each has their own Aunty who lives and cares for them. They take more easily to my rolling moose gifts than to me, but are playing peekaboo and throwing kisses before I leave. They have the same American surplus of toys and love of Mama and Dadda, as visualized by the crying when we again departed for our road trip. Breakfast is a combo of Rice, fruit, pork and vegetables . Quick tour stop at a 2nd of his 7 grocery stores.

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Dragon Road Festival is celebrated this weekend to honor Quyuan who committed suicide by jumping in the river in BC to protest government corruption. Today people have river festivals , eat rice cakes and throw rice in the rivers to feed the fish in hopes that they wouldn’t eat his body.

Down pouring on the road to Lishui.

Arrived at her grandparents home with gifts of photos to find I am the first ever foreigner to their village. Also amazed to see him showing me picIMG_2002tures on his I-phone.IMG_1994

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June 20th The Great Wall of China and Back to Shanghai

Up early and picked up by Mr. Wang to Tour the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China . 2 hour drive with traffic from Beijing, on a beautiful clear blue sky day ( I am still waiting for the smog??) We pass hundreds selling watermelon on the road and Kathys father (much to her embarrassment ) commits to having one at the top of the wall. Tourism starts before you enter , with BK and sellers of everything Chinese. We gondola up and hike for 2 hours and then toboggan down, would have preferred to hike, but preferred to walk the wall given our 530 pm flight.

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The WALL of China is MAGNIFICANT, it and the mountains go on forever , (nearly coast to coast) China, Connected by Emperor Qin in 250BC to keep out the Mongolian enemies. First time I the foreigners out number the   Chinese. The wall is a spectacular feat with amazing views from every steep step.

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We arrive back in Shanghai, after an adventure rebooking my cancelled flight. We load up at Kathy’s fathers grocery store for our road trip to their home town in Lishui , Zhejiang Province. (4.5 hours SE of Shanghai. )

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Wishing Stephi off on Skype as she begins her travels to NZ. Realizing we are now literally around the world. Stephi also realizes she has no “fathers day”, as she leaves Sat and arrives Monday. In the LA airport, she meets a group of girls , some of whom are from NZ and her excitement outweighs her nervousness. I miss my babies !!!

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June 19th Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City

Raining in the morning so we decide to postpone he Great Wall till Saturday, and get an early start to Tiananmen square and The Forbidden City. Breakfast is getting more Americanized as I often now eat yogurt, banana and dumplings on the hutong street of Qian Men Diaje. We have gotten our moneys worth on the umbrellas as we splash our way to view Mao’s Mausoleum. First stop is to check bag, second to purchase a flower, (which we suspected may have previously been purchased that same day and recycled) Mao is preserved and illuminated as we file past the tomb. The NO photos policy is strictly enforced. All show respect

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We cross Tiananmen Square and enter the Hall of the People where the representatives of all 34 Providences meet to run the government. The election process is not clear, but reps go on to be appointed to the cabinet of the Peoples Republic of China. Each province has a beautiful banquet hall, which are open if not in use. As I enter the buildings bathroom, I realize I have acclimated to China, as I register surprise to find all 4 things, I previously took for granite: a toilet ( the Turkish toilet-hole is actually preferred by most Chinese woman ) , toilet paper, soap and paper towels.

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Lastly and for the next 8 hours we walk the Imperial and Previously Forbidden City of China, closed to the last emperor in 1912 and opened as a museum in 1949 under PRC. WOW!!! it is gigantic and unbelievably beautiful . I am struck by the size and the detail of the buildings and the hundreds of small rooms, now devoted to displaying the Jade and other ancient treasures. I have memories of being here, from watching Disney’s Mulan movie. We can barely walk as we return after dinner at a Spanish/Chinese restaurant. We wrap up the night, passing the ceremonial flag lowering on the Square at 1945 promptly.

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Benvenuto al Castellemare di Stabia

Tucci, I love love love seeing and hearing all that you are doing . you are a gifted writer and I know you are doing well, when I see and hear about it in your words, thanks for sharing and enjoy being you in Italy!

pipastravels

This is my first post because the first week has been busy and emotional and different. I am currently in Castellemare di Stabia, the town built on the foundations of the ancient Roman city of Stabiae. The views from the institute are pretty spectacular, looking out over the bay of Naples and at Vesuvius, which I will be ascending by car and foot tomorrow.
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I will give some highlights from the past couple of days.

We visited an active seismic zone which is still steaming and shifting. It’s a huge crater that has erupted and collapsed but the ground is still warm and it still steams hot sulfur. It’s called Solfatara, aka sulfurous. image

I’ve also enjoyed eating things, like this octopus, which was nice live image

And slightly less alive (although still raw, just now marinated in olive oil and lemon juice.
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Apparently the early Greek colonists who settled first on…

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